How to get a scholarship into your dream High School or Selective School 🎓

Selective schools accept students based on their academic performance on a standardised exam – the ‘entrance exam’. The exam assesses a range of skills across various disciplines in order to identify the highest-performing students in each cohort.

2 years ago   •   4 min read

By KIS Academics
Photo by Erika Fletcher / Unsplash

So… you or your child are considering a selective high school. And why wouldn’t you? Selective schools best place students to achieve academically by offering a fast-paced environment for students to learn alongside like-minded, high-achieving peers. Or maybe you’re considering trying for a merit scholarship to a tuition-based high school, which creates an affordable alternative to the expensive fees of private school education.

Either way, you’ll have to sit the selective schools entrance exam.

But what is the entrance exam, exactly? And how do you outperform the thousands of students all competing for a place in the high school of your dreams?

Well, look no further than this handy guide of tips and tricks for the selective entrance exam!

What is the entrance exam?

Selective schools accept students based on their academic performance on a standardised exam – the ‘entrance exam’. The exam assesses a range of skills across various disciplines in order to identify the highest-performing students in each cohort.

Depending on which state you are from, the exam will be formatted slightly differently. However, each exam can essentially be broken down into four sections:

  1. Reading
  2. Writing
  3. Mathematics
  4. General Ability

Familiarise yourself with the structure of the particular exam you will be undertaking. Are the questions multi-choice? How many questions are in each section? This will ensure your exam preparations are relevant and targeted.

How do I study for each section?


You will be asked to read a range of text types and answer questions requiring comprehension and inferential skills. Here are a few tips for preparing for this section:

  • Increase your reading speed: In a timed exam, every minute counts! Make a habit of reading a diversity of challenging books, as this will naturally increase your reading speed.
  • Build your vocabulary: Often, texts will use complex and unusual word choices, and you will need to know what these words mean. Consider making a list of unfamiliar words you come across in your preparations and familiarising yourself with their meanings.


You will be asked to compose a creative piece. Often, this will take the form of either a narrative story or a persuasive essay. However, this is not always the case! You must therefore familiarise yourself with the different text types you might be asked to write in (e.g. letters, informational reports, newspaper articles, and magazine blogs). Here are a few tips for preparing for this section:

  • Play to your strengths: Are you really good at humour? Dialogue? Metaphor? Use it! Write what you know, and write it well.
  • Be original: Find creative ways to respond to the prompt. Your best idea is not always the first idea that pops into your head. Brainstorm innovative or unexpected ways you can respond to the prompt. This will immediately set aside your piece and engage your marker more.
  • Quality over quantity: Remember that this is your first draft, and markers are not expecting a polished piece. Focus on writing a good-quality, creative piece full of dynamic word choices, rather than on the length.


This section is generally quite straightforward. The challenge, however, is answering the questions in the time limit. Being able to quickly identify what a question is asking you to do – and knowing how to solve it – will set you apart from other exam candidates. Here is my number one tip for preparing for this section:

  • Categorise & Strategise: As you work through practice questions, you will begin to notice certain ‘types’ of questions being repeated. Categorise the questions you come across and create strategies and mental shortcuts to solve them (which you can then implement in the exam).

General Ability

“General ability” can be broken down into two components: nonverbal reasoning and verbal reasoning. Nonverbal reasoning involves pictures and diagrams, whilst verbal reasoning involves word questions. Ensure you understand which of these your exam will be testing for. Here are a few tips for preparing for this section:

  • Understand the question types: Often, it is not immediately obvious what skills or knowledge the questions in the general ability section are testing for. As such, students find it difficult to improve their results in this section. However, by going through past papers and practice questions, you will begin to notice trends in the questions. From here, you can begin to understand the different kinds of abstract reasoning you will need to apply.
  • Build up relevant skill sets: If you are repeatedly getting the same questions wrong, consider what specific skills you need to develop that would help you answer these problem questions. For example, if you are struggling with anagrams, focus on building up your vocabulary.

General study tips and tricks

Here are a few general tips for studying for the exam:

  • Get a selective school tutor! A tutor can help to familiarise you with the exam content and show you strategies for tackling challenging questions. In many cases, they are former selective school students who can offer personal advice and wisdom. You can find our selective school tutors here:
  • Practice, practice, practice! Complete past papers in test conditions, under a time limit. By simulating the exam environment, you will build up your confidence for when the real exam arrives.
  • Read the question! Ensure you know exactly what it is the question is asking you to do (and then do it)! Too often, students misunderstand the meaning of a question and lose easy marks.
  • Go through the solutions after you finish a paper.  By understanding the solution to a question, you can formulate strategies to use for future questions (this is where a tutor can be really helpful, if you can’t understand why you got a question wrong).
  • If you run out of time before you get to the end of each section, don’t leave questions unanswered. The exam does not punish you for getting questions wrong, so give it your best guess!

And there you have it! A comprehensive guide to studying for the selective school entrance exam! My final tip (and perhaps the most important of all) is to look after yourself while you are studying.

Good luck!

Written by KIS Academics Tutor for WACE English, Literature, and Psychology, Zavier Wileman. Zavier is using their ‘gap year’ to study for a Certificate IV in Mental Health Peer Work. Zavier’s approach to tutoring is student-centred, focusing on fostering the student’s holistic wellbeing alongside teaching them content, in order to maximise results and student satisfaction. You can view Zavier’s profile here and request them as a tutor.

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